Compliance remains the central goal

Alfie Kohn said:

Whether or not it’s stated explicitly, compliance remains the central goal of most classroom management programs, character education initiatives, and parenting resources. Sure, we stress the virtues of independent thinking and assertiveness, but mostly in the context of getting kids to resist peer pressure. If a child has the temerity to resist unreasonable rules and demands imposed by adults, well, then, bring on the “consequences” (read: punishments) to “hold them accountable for their behavior.”

What is so offensive about Skinnerian programs like PBIS or Class Dojo isn’t just their methods, which amount to extended exercises in manipulation, but their goal, which is to elicit mindless obedience.


3 Responses to “Compliance remains the central goal”

  1. Robert Runte, Ph.D. Reply May 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    An excellent recent example of that here: A Moncton, New Brunswick teen was suspended for writing a letter to her Vice Principal complaining about her teacher giving her a detention for violating the dress code. When she complained that the dress code was out of date and sexist, when she wrote an intelligent letter challenging the logic of sending her home because her dress might ‘distract’ boys, instead of opening a school-wide dialog on updating the dress code, she was summarily suspended. “If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders, then he needs to be sent home and practice self-control”. It is not just that the Vice Principal made a fool of himself in front of the Internet and national media, he brought discredit to school administrators everywhere. Such arbitrary use of punishment is an embarrassment to the profession. I can even understand handing out a detention for breaking the existing rules, but suspending a student for (politely, intelligently) questioning those rules is unjustifiable and abhorrent. One cannot claim that schools teach critical thinking, whatever the official curricular objectives, if the (not very) hidden curriculum is “comply or get out”.
    So, just for conversation starter, how many of you have looked at your dress code this decade? Will it be a proactive discussion or a knee jerk reaction at your school? Do you see your job as encouraging debate or enforcing compliance?

  2. Having finally been worn down and driven to investigating classroom remote control software to lock screens etc I feel a dreadful frustration.

    I’ve resisted it for a long time. I don’t want to get into a technological arms race with learners, I know that their future employers won’t have the tech that I have and without a chance to learn their own self discipline and mental filtering they’ll struggle to not drop themselves in it with the boss, and I’m not looking for ‘mindless obedience’.

    Just sufficient obedience to do what’s needed instead of looking at cat videos.

    I know all the spiel about “well if your course is more boring than a cat video it’s YOU that’s doing it wrong” and I even half believe it.

    But Like the learners, I have things I have to do and one of them is making sure they finish the work that makes up their portfolio.

    Any suggestions for working WITHIN the curriculum imposed upon us?

    We’ve tried:

    -Adding/editing Wikipedia pages instead of in-house projects (Response: “What’s the point the info is already online anyway”)

    -Blogging (Struggled to find a real audience that wasn’t just their teachers and people commenting as a favour to their teachers)

    -DIY projects with Raspberry Pis (Response: This is too hard, what’s the point, ‘real’ computers are easier and faster)

    I’m basically stuck – my RSS feed is populated with cool stuff which other teachers have apparently used to great enthusiasm from their learners but mine just shrug…

    So I too, COMPLY, teach them to pass the test and try again with the next group.

    Maybe eventually schools will change enough that my learners arrive already used to the idea of getting their teeth into hard problem, giving their input, and with a syllabus that meets the job market not what’s easy to assess.

    But in the meantime, I need some of the time, to keep them off cat videos and on the task I’m given them because if they don’t do it they won’t pass and if enough of them don’t pass the funding will go away.

  3. I am an educator and I am a parent. After teaching in the classroom for nine years, complying to the rules and regulations set forth by my superiors my eyes are starting (just now!) to be pried open to the possibility (oh my!) of NOT doing what the system tells us to. Changing my thought process is no easy task. I have been engrained to follow the rules, check the boxes and follow directions since I was a wee one. Just last night in a conversation with my 6-year-old daughter, I gave myself a proverbial slap in the face. This is what went down after watching my daughter practicing writing her spelling words:

    Me: Honey, just so you know, your teacher might not like how you are making your a’s (she likes to add a little tail).
    Daughter: Why?
    Me: Because a’s are supposed to have a straight line.
    Daughter: Why?
    Me: Because that’s just how it’s done.


    Then I went on to teach her how to jump through hoops at school with her letter writing but at home/on her own she can do it however she wants. Why must a parent do that?!?! And what about the children of families that don’t notice/care to notice how the school system is breaking their children into regurgitating robots?

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